BELLEVUE, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Overlake Medical Center announced today that it has doubled its efforts to use meat raised without antibiotics, just as the Food and Drug Administration took steps this week toward phasing out the use of some antibiotics in animals processed for meat, citing a potential threat to public health.
Working with suppliers, Overlake Executive Chef Christopher Linaman was able to make significant strides in increasing the percentage of meat raised without antibiotics used at Overlake. Approximately 45 percent of the meat Overlake uses in patient and visitor meals is raised without antibiotics, besting the hospital’s progress of 19 percent from its most recent fiscal year.
“By June 2014, my goal was for 30 percent of the meat we served to be raised without antibiotics. I was very excited when I realized that we had already reached nearly 45 percent,” Linaman said.
Linaman is hopeful that recent FDA steps to phase out antibiotics in meat will help turn the tide on the very common practice of using antibiotics to promote growth and compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in animal farms. On Dec. 11, the FDA announced a voluntary plan to phase out the use of certain antibiotics for enhanced food production. According to this week’s story in the Associated Press, the FDA has debated how to address the issue of antibiotics in meat for several years, as antibiotic-resistant diseases have risen and consumers increasingly have clamored for antibiotic-free meat.
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, 20 million pounds of the drugs that are important in human medicine are sold every year for use on industrial farms. Sometimes these drugs are used to treat sick animals, but often they are used to make healthy animals grow faster and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. These practices help breed drug-resistant bacteria that can threaten human health. When bacteria become antibiotic resistant, the number of options doctors have to effectively treat patients is reduced.
“We feed thousands of patients each year at Overlake and want to do our part to make sure we are supporting the health of our patients,” Linaman said.
Overlake’s work to create a more sustainable and balanced food system took a large leap forward when Linaman and others created the hospital’s “Comprehensive Food Policy to Promote Individual and Environmental Health” after attending a FoodMed Conference in Seattle in the Fall of 2011. The policy was approved by the hospital in December 2011.
Earlier this year, the hospital placed second in the nation for its sustainable food procurement efforts – 50 percent of its food purchases in 2012 were from sustainable sources and65 percent of the food was locally grown or raised. The Healthy Food in Health Care award was presented to the hospital in April by Health Care Without Harm.
In November, the hospital’s amped up efforts to increase the percentage of meat raised without antibiotics was featured on the Pew Charitable Trusts website. The national advocacy organization is working with human health organizations and industrial farming to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by phasing out the overuse and misuse of the drugs in food and animal production.
Linaman’s advice to other institutional food purchasers is to take small steps first.
“Switch out your burger patties to an organic option,” he said. “Work with your current vendors to see what they can source for you. At the same time, take some initiative and do independent research to find out what products are available.”
“And always remember that this is a matter of public health. Antibiotic-resistant microbes are becoming more and more of a health risk to people, as nontherapeutic antibiotic use in agriculture continues without meaningful regulation,” he said.
Linaman is no stranger to the issue of drug-resistant antibiotics. Before coming to work at Overlake, an infection nearly killed him. Luckily, after many attempts, the last antibiotic they tried was able to turn around the aggressive infection.
“We are quickly slipping into a post-antibiotic era, a fact that should move us all to action. I bet everybody can think of somebody they know who has dealt with some sort of antibiotic-resistant infection,” Linaman said.
Advocacy groups recognize that the work to completely eliminate antibiotics from use in meat production is far from over. In the meantime, Linaman recommends that consumers can vote with their wallets at the grocery store.
“You have the power to change the way food is produced by how you shop,” Linaman said. When at the grocery story, look for meat and poultry with the following labels:
About Overlake Medical Center
Overlake Medical Center is a nonprofit, non-tax-supported regional medical center with a network of primary care, specialty and urgent care medical clinics throughout the Eastside. The hospital is licensed for 349 beds and offers a comprehensive range of services including cardiac care, cancer care, general and specialty surgery, women’s programs, senior care, psychiatric services. Overlake also participates in a wide range of community outreach activities including health fairs, free health screening events, wellness classes and wellness publications. For more information, visit www.overlakehospital.org.